Poetry deals with the deepest emotions- it seeks to capture in a few linguistic symbols the realities of life, sweet or brutal it may be. Maya Angelou’s poem, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” is a representation of her life, an attempt to communicate in a lyric the agony of a caged soul. Through the use of lyrical imagery that is further enhanced with a touch of realism, Angelou is able to portray the difficulties and the boundaries that she had experienced during her childhood.
Since the poem in its very essence is a form of an autobiographical writing or a portrait poem, the poet was able to communicate her agony through the use of certain metaphors that on a close analysis are also very accurate symbols of the concepts that she is emphasizing. The poem provides a direct comparison between a free and a caged bird. The bird is used by Angelou to represent an ideal concept that also on the other hand could be used to represent her state of affairs given the context of which the poem was written.
The bird is a perfect metaphor to use to signify the idea of free will and the platonic concept of freedom. The bird being described to be “stalking inside a narrow cage”, “behind the bars of rage” and has it “wings clipped” perfectly describes Angelou’s childhood- the poet was a victim of rape, broken family, poverty, and other deprivations of the basic rights of a child such as education and family custody. The latter part of the poem then describes the passion of the poet for freedom.
Again the bird as a universal symbol for independence cries “behind its cage” for its “dreams” despite of the harsh reality that it is living in. The poet describes such as “grave of dreams”, “nightmare” and “distant hill”. Again, this signifies the poet’s experience during her childhood life, such metaphors describe the society that abandoned and ravaged her. A good autobiographical writing, as deducing from the techniques used by Angelou on her poetry, should be able to focus on a very important aspect of one’s life.
An autobiographical writing should be able to capture in a few words the intense emotions and passion of an author that is enclaved within his or her particular slice of life. Similarly it must reflect one’s sincerity and honesty that could be made evident on the choice of words and consequently the weaving of phrases and sentences. The words should flow as if they are part of a one body- similar to music once an autobiographical writing or a poem is read, it should have a perfect harmony. It is also very relevant that the writing should mirror the personality of the author.
One should not try to write something that does not reflect his or her true essence, because the very nature of poetry should be self-expression and not mimicry. Postmodern approach to poetry is also a factor. As it is evident in Angelou’s work, she defied the basic dogmas of the society that she lived during her time. Despite her belief that she is in a cage, she does not accept that her fate is determined. Instead she asserted her freedom, break the dogmas and finally broke the chains that enslaved her.
If I am to rewrite my autobiography, I would keep in mind that it should perfectly reflect my deepest beliefs, passion, emotion and philosophies. Similarly, I will carefully choose the words that will mirror the concepts that I want to communicate. I will make sure that the words, phrases and sentences flow together and sing in a perfect harmony. Even though I am living in a generation that highly upholds equality and human rights, despised discrimination, and gives immense value of freedom and education, there are still certain things that I know I need to rethink and analyze.
I think a deeper analysis on the things that I really value and believe in would be a good thing to include in my autobiography.
Literature Cited: Angelou, Maya. “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sing”. January 9, 2007 < http://w ww. poemhunter. com/poem/i-know-why-the-caged-bird-sings/> Wikepedia. Org. “Maya Angelou”. January 9, 2007 < http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki /Maya_Angelou> Art Belliveau. “Portrait Poam #1” January 9, 2007 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maya_Angelou